South Africa’s second oldest national classic, The Herald VW Cycle Tour, will visit uncharted territory when a brand-new route is introduced for the 28th edition.

The 106km Classic, which takes place in Port Elizabeth on February 3, will however still start and finish at the popular Hobie Beach across the road from The Boardwalk Convention Centre.

According to The Herald’s chief marketing officer Justin Peel, the change was necessary to bring the event in line with other top races on the national calendar.

“One has to continue to innovate otherwise you get left behind,” he says.

“The new route has a great balance of climbing and flat roads, so we’re hoping it will create equal opportunities for different types of riders and therefore add another element to the racing side of things.

“Although I believe it still favours the sprinters, the new profile increases the likelihood of a small group getting away and staying clear.”

It is only the second route change after a minor tweak in 1989, he says.

“Although about 70% of the course is the same as last year, the changes should give the race a totally different feel.”

He says the usual detour along Kragga Kamma Road, reached via the climbs at Chelsea and Theescombe, has been axed and riders will now head directly for the quaint seaside village at Seaview after taking on the new climb at Long Barn on the Old Seaview Road.

From there, they will start climbing towards Colleen Glen on what locals refer to as 5k Hill. Before the summit, riders will however veer off to the right to take in a short but venomous climb aptly named Slanghoogte.

Peel says this ascent serves a dual purpose: it adds elevation to the profile and, more importantly, gives spectators a great vantage point from which to watch the race unfold and support their riders.

He says the organisers are hoping that this stretch of road will eventually attain similar notoriety to Suikerbossie in the Cape Argus Pick n Pay Cycle Tour.

From the start at Hobie Beach, the race still hugs the coastal road towards the harbour before taking riders through the suburbs towards the farmlands on the outskirts of the city.

After the short test at Long Barn, it passes through Seaview en route to Colleen Glen via Slanghoogte.

“Riders continue on this road until the left-turn at Altona School. Then it is left again onto Draaifontein Road followed by a right that will take participants to the final big climb at Maitlands.

“From there, riders head straight back towards town on the undulating Seaview Road. In the vicinity of Sardinia Bay, they will be directed towards Marine Drive, which takes participants through a second seaside village at Schoenmakerskop.

“From Schoenies to the finish at Hobie Beach the road is flat with the ocean as a spectacular backdrop.”

Slanghoogte (36.4km) will now host the first king of the mountains hotspot while the second is still at Maitlands (59km). The sprints remain unchanged on Buffelsfontein Road (10km) and at Altona Primary (43km).

The organisers have introduced a 55km event, christened the Pursuit, on the Sunday to replace the 70km and 40km races.

Another change is the addition of a 10km “sprint” for eight to 12 years olds on the Saturday to complement the existing 21km, 2km and 500m Powerade-sponsored events.

Mountain bikers can choose to attempt the rather descriptive 80km Extreme, 60km Adventure or 30km Powerade Leisure Challenge events, which all take place at Addo on the Saturday.

The above are supported by 5km and 500m rides, also sponsored by the sports drink brand, to cater for the little ones.

Peel says participants will finally be able to experience the new mountain bike routes that were created for the 2012 event but were rendered unrideable after torrential rains.

“These amazing purpose-built trails were used for the nationals this year, so let’s hope we don’t have another downpour!”

The introduction of the Ultimate Quest is yet another exciting newbie for the 2013 event, says Peel.

“It’s a challenge to cyclists all over the country to race the 80km Extreme on the Saturday and the 106km Classic the next day.”

He says riders’ combined times in these two events will reveal the strongest overall cyclist in the men’s and women’s categories with R5 000 going to each of the winners.

The overall prize purse of R114 000 makes it the richest race in the Eastern Cape and, in addition, one lucky entrant will drive away in a Volkswagen Polo.

Tasol-GT’s time-trial specialist James Perry and Momentum-Toyota’s Ashleigh Moolman-Pasio are the defending champions on the road while Kevin Evans and Candice Neethling, who rode for Nedbank 360Life and BMC respectively, stormed to muddy victories at Addo.

Enter at before January 21. For updates, go to @heraldcycletour and

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